A modest but fascinating one-of-a-kind site - an ancient Mayan village buried and thus preserved by a volcanic eruption.

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Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site

The Mayan Pompeii

You shouldn't visit El Salvador for the first time without a day trip to the country's most interesting Mayan site - and one that's unique in all the Americas. About an hour northwest of the city, skirting Boquerón, it also makes a good combination excursion through nature spots in the area such as Las Flores and Lake Coatepeque. Joya de Cerén is a village that was buried in the year 590 AD by an eruption of the nearby Laguna Caldera. It is, in effect, the Pompeii of the Americas, and the only one of its kind in the hemisphere - though much smaller and less elaborate than Pompeii (also different in that the inhabitants were able to get away, so there are no fossilised bodies). Joya's excavation has however been tremendously important, and the site does show a number of everyday dwellings, and its museum a collection of artifacts that shed light on the lives of average Mayans thousands of years ago.

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